HC Deb 18 October 1950 vol 478 cc2049-51
Mr. Lennox-Boyd

(by Private Notice) asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he has any statement to make regarding the air disaster yesterday at Mill Hill.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Beswick)

As the House will already know, a British European Airways Corporation airliner crashed at Mill Hill yesterday afternoon. The aircraft was Dakota No. G-AGIW on the London to Renfrew service. I deeply regret that 28 persons lost their lives in this accident. The only survivor of those on board was the steward, who has suffered serious injuries.

The Chief Inspector of Accidents has started preliminary investigations into the causes of the accident, and my noble Friend has decided that, in view of all the circumstances of this case, a public inquiry will be held when these investigations have been completed.

On behalf of my noble Friend and of His Majesty's Government, I wish to express deep distress at this disaster, and I know the House will join me in offering profound sympathy to the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman consider, while this investigation is being made, whether it is wise to continue to use Hendon Airport when doing an east-to-west emergency landing as there is very high ground in the immediate vicinity which is a terrific hazard to aircraft in difficulties and represents a considerable hazard to the population in the area?

Mr. Beswick

I have no doubt that all facts will be taken into consideration when the matter is investigated.

Air Commodore Harvey

As the inquiry is bound to take some time will the hon. Gentleman confer with the Air Registration Board, bearing in mind that in the United States, the country of origin of the Dakota, the permissible all-up weight for take-off is 25,200 lb. and in this country is 28,000 lb.? Will he look into the matter in the immediate future?

Mrs. Jean Mann

Can my hon. Friend say whether it is true that Dakotas flying from Scotland are not examined at Northolt and that the engine examination must take place in Scotland, and whether that means that there is no re-examination at Northolt when a plane arrives from Scotland?

Mr. Beswick

It would be quite wrong to believe that. There is an examination before each flight as well as very carefully regulated examinations at other periods. As to the supplementary question by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey), I will certainly note what he has said, but it would be wrong to suggest that this aircraft was overloaded or that it was not capable of an adequate single engine performance.

Sir R. Glyn

Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider the method by which air accidents are announced by the B.B.C.? As the route on which the disaster occurred was not announced, people who had relatives travelling by British European Airways were uncertain whether their relatives were concerned.

Mr. Beswick

I will certainly take that point into consideration.

Mr. Rankin

As my hon. Friend is perhaps aware, some of the machines on this route are fairly old. Can he say whether this aircraft belonged to the older group, and if it did, whether it had been reconditioned recently?

Mr. Beswick

I should have thought that it would have been much better to leave this kind of thing until the inquiry.

Air Commodore Harvey

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that I was not suggesting that the aircraft was overloaded in any way at all, but as only so few countries operate the maximum weight of 28,000 lb. will he review this matter in the light of the circumstances?

Mr. Beswick

I understand that, and I was not suggesting that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had made that suggestion, but I thought that some people might draw that inference from his supplementary question and that I ought to emphasise that point.